As you can imagine, I have been very busy over the last year. For those of you that do not know, I am completing my MBA at the University of Georgia with a full scholarship and fellowship. My concentrations are in real estate and entrepreneurship.
Many people asked why a person who had been in business for himself since age 26 would be interested in going back to school. The short answer would be scale. Attempting to learn how to run a business on the fly in a tiny coastal town in Costa Rica was very challenging and offered great school of hard knocks type of learning. However, there is a science to running a business and frankly most businesses in the Tamarindo area ignore that.
As the President of the Entrepreneurship and Venture Capital Club at UGA, I’ve pushed to get myself and the other students in front of as many CEOs and start up veterans as possible with the goal of talking about these things. Taking a small company forward from the human resources perspective and otherwise has been the subject of many lunches and one on one meetings.
In the past, much of Hidden Coast and now Coastal Property Management‘s performance hinged on my personal work output and that was a problem because I was spread too thin to the point of getting calls on my personal cell on Saturday nights and things of that nature. Instead of having the company solve problems, I was personally solving problems, and that was very limiting for the company. My job now is to push the company forward. Much of what I have been working on over the past year has been transitioning CPM by implementing systems and training other people on leadership, communication and problem solving. This work continues. The goal being unified service across the company and the ability to grow from there.
We have already done some very cool stuff with the company. Moving to online bookkeeping was a huge boost for the company because Quickbooks was such a bottleneck. Data entry was slow, but more importantly, there had to be an interaction for the required reports to get where they needed to be. Now owners can access their books at any time, and moreover, accountants can access the system and pull the reports themselves directly for purposes such as US tax filings.
A more recent change was switching our calendars to Google calendars. We now have the ability to work more closely with our channel partners by coding our calendars into their sites. When we update our master calendar, the units’ calendars automatically update on each site that carries them so huge time savings have been created by eliminating the need to login and update calendars across the various sites we own, not to mention the external sites that carry CPM properties.
Another big project has been creating new channel partner relationships. In the MBA program, there is a huge emphasis on networking and CPM has taken that to heart. Some of the more visible places our properties are found are mentioned in blog posts: ForRentCostaRica.com is a bilingual marketing platform for Costa Rica and Shacked.org is a surf travel niche directory of surf lodging. However, our properties are carried in all kinds of other places, and the response has been fantastic. I vividly remember sending 100s of rental inquiries to companies who are now competitors when I was a top real estate agent in Tamarindo and never getting paid or even seeing any follow up at all with the clients. In contrast, CPM has letters of recommendation from channel partners who have made themselves substantial revenue streams sending leads that CPM converts to rentals.
A major undertaking at the moment is to systematize our maintenance processes. Cameron Compton has been a great addition to Coastal Property Management and her focus is on pushing the maintenance and cleaning work at the company to higher levels of efficiency. We have always received great reviews as evidenced by our consecutive “Excellent” rankings by Flipkey/Tripadvisor, but we want to save owners time and always ensure that our tenant clients have the best experiences possible in Costa Rica and keep coming back.
Another big push of late has been to move the company forward from a marketing perspective. We have been pushing the company into the social realm. We have a following of over 1000 on Facebook, and have recently added a Twitter account. I have spent a substantial amount of time studying online marketing as that is a huge part of the value we provide to our owner clients. Most owners have reported that the value of VRBO and Homeaway have declined drastically over the last couple of years in the form of far less frequent inquiries and bottom feeding behavior wherein the tenants reach out to 10 or more owners and attempt to start a bidding race to the bottom. Our traditional web traffic is up over 50% in the last year, but traditional owner side marketing is hurting. As an aside, I’m recommending that owners consider working with AirBnB.com, which is the talk of the town in Silicon Valley as something to add in addition to their VRBO and Homeaway accounts. In any case, one of my personal goals for CPM has always been to provide as many tenant inquiries for our properties as possible. We’re doing a great job of this compared to our big box competitors in Guanacaste, but we always look to move further ahead.
For the summer, I’ll be pushing through various projects at Coastal Property Management. Look forward to seeing more changes in the near future.